The week's good news: June 13, 2019
It wasn't all bad!
School gives students P.E. credits for helping elderly and disabled people with yard work
Instead of playing basketball or running laps, students at the Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa, spent the last two weeks of school earning their P.E. credits in a different way. At the end of the year, the school lets students pick from a variety of activities for P.E. credits, and one option is to volunteer to do yard work for an elderly or disabled person. "The students and I come out and help them," teacher Tim Hitzler told KWWL. "Could be raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cleaning gutters, just depends on what they need." Hitzler said this arrangement strengthens the community and teaches students the importance of volunteering. "What they really like is helping people," Hitzler said. "They really like giving back to people and meeting the person."
4 Oklahoma teens rescue 90-year-old neighbor from burning house
Without a hint of hesitation, four teenagers in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, raced inside a burning house to make sure that its 90-year-old owner escaped the flames. One night last month, Catherine Ritchie was getting ready to go to sleep when she saw her bed's headboard was on fire. She attempted to extinguish the flames, but the fire just got worse, and the smoke made her disoriented. Outside, Nick Byrd, 14; Dylan Wick, 16; Seth Byrd, 16; and Wyatt Hall, 17, smelled smoke, and as soon as they saw it was coming from Ritchie's home, they took action. One of the teens smashed the glass in the front door to gain access to the house while another called 911. Nick Byrd found Ritchie in the hallway and quickly picked her up and ran out of the house. Everyone made it out safely. Hall told KTUL that since that night, "my life has just changed ... for the better."
All-women sailing crew aims to eliminate plastic in the ocean
Emily Penn and her all-woman sailing crew are fighting for cleaner oceans, free of plastic and other debris. Penn is the co-founder of eXXpedition, a female-only crew that researches the effects of plastic in the oceans and how this harms all life. Penn calls herself an "ocean advocate," and founded eXXpedition after seeing how much trash was in the Earth's water. The United Nations estimates 13 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year, and "we need a multi-disciplinary and multicultural approach to solving this problem," Penn told Time. She aims to get more women to study toxic pollution, and has led 11 scientific sailing expeditions. In October, the eXXpedition crew will set sail for two years on an ambitious global research trip. "We all share one ocean regardless of where we come from, so this is an issue that transcends all political boundaries and borders," Penn said.
Woman given just 3 days to live at birth graduates from college with honors
Nekhidia Harris has defied the odds. She was born with brittle bones and other health issues, and doctors gave her just three days to live. But Harris survived, and the 24-year-old graduated with honors last week from Medgar Evers College in New York, earning her bachelor's degree in social work. "I feel so excellent," she told ABC 7 New York. This fall, she will start working on her master's degree, with the goal of working with children. Harris, who is as tall as a small child, has gone through several surgeries, and started a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities. "No one has shunned her," said her father, Michael Harris. "Nobody treats her differently, because they see her as tall as they are." It was her dad who gave Harris a piece of advice that has helped her through life: "Use my brain as my height, and I've stuck with that," she said.
Indiana teacher turns kids' drawings into stuffed animals
Shannon Anderson takes the characters created by her students and turns them into something huggable. Anderson teaches third grade at Van Rensselaer Elementary School in Rensselaer, Indiana, and every year, she has the kids write and illustrate their own books. "It gives them a lot of ownership and excitement," she told Today. Anderson encourages them to let their imaginations run wild, and after they turn in their work, she takes one of their drawings and sends it to a company that makes custom stuffed animals. Anderson wants the kids to look at their new toys and "see that writing is a joy," she said. As soon as they open up their gifts in class, their "instinct is to be in awe, to hug it and love on it," Anderson told Today. "It is something very special that they created. It is powerful."